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Category Archives: Baoding

Day 282: Bye-bye, Baoding!

Nimenhao!

We’re three days out from departing Baoding and making our final touring journey to Hong Kong. This week has been eventful and filled with last classes, exams, goodbyes, pictures, Children’s Day festivities, packing, and last suppers. We even ran into Samantha at QLH (a change of her plans meant that we get to see her one more time before leaving – yay)!

We’ve received multiple gifts of thanks from the primary and junior middle schools on campus as well as from boss man at QLH and some individual teacher friends. Earlier this week, the primary school took us out to a really delicious lunch and we had a great time hanging out with most of the primary school teachers and Li Laoshi. And last night, we had our “last supper” with Enkui and his family before we spent the evening together in a typical Chinese park soaking up the communal love and dancing fun that is a unique Chinese experience and one that we will sorely miss.

Instead of narrating a week of events, here are some of my favorite pictures from the week:

P6-3:
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Fifth grade notes (the top one drew what I drew on the board that day and the bottom note drew one of the games we played frequently):
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“Bey-bey”:
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Love notes from fifth grade:
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Selfie with fifth graders:
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P5-1:
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This is a camera with a picture of Alyssa Laoshi inside plus a note from the student underneath that – how creative!:
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Lots of girls from one class signed this:
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Special letter from a fifth grader:
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Chinese fortune tellers:
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P5-5:
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J1-3:
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J1-5:
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P6-2:
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P6-4:
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P6-6:
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Selfies with sixth grade boys:
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P6-1:
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P6-2:
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Video compilations I made of the Children’s Day performances Thursday and Friday –

Kindergarten: 

Primary: 

Art Classes: 

We will spend the rest of this weekend packing, cleaning, and saying goodbyes and then we’re off to Hong Kong. My next post will probably be when we’re no longer in mainland China, so join us in saying farewell to Baoding.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 275: A Year of Art Collecting

Nimenhao!

We spent this afternoon cleaning and preparing to pack up our stuff (but not packing…yet!). And during this prep, we went through our collections of student artwork and presents that we’ve collected throughout our time teaching here.

Here are some of my favorites –

This kid drew a battle of him and Duncan fighting each other while defending China and America, respectively:
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Teeny tiny erasers and paper foldings:
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A bouquet of paper flowers:
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And a collection of dream catchers:
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A note from a student of mine:
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And all the food you’ll ever need to know:
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A note to Duncan from his student “Howard Hawk”:
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A monster sneezing with a tiny monster saying “bless you”:
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These students feel sad because they have too much homework:
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Origami:
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Our entire collection of artwork, presents, and miscellaneous “gifts” from our students:
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We love and will miss our students.

Thank you and until next time,

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Baoding

 

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Day 274: Tribute to Eighth Grade

Nimenhao!

The fastest week of our time in China has now (already!) passed, and we officially have one week of school left. This means that as of 4:10 this afternoon, I will never teach my eighth grade students again.

So, to honor all the fun (and patience-trying lessons I learned) experienced in my classes, here’s a tribute post to the eighth grade classes at the Hebei Baoding Eastern Bilingual School in the 2013-2014 school year.

J2 -2 (“Alisha” has to get in the picture too!):
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J2 – 3 (some of them, at least):
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J2 – 4 (half of them; this class definitely knows who Cobe Bryant is – they may or may not be under the impression that I personally know him…):
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J2 – 5 (happiest class who no matter how hungry they were, would not let me send them off to lunch early):
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J2 – 6 (those two in the front, may have the best English in their grade):
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J2 – 7 (some of them saying goodbye):
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Next week, we might only have Monday – Wednesday classes because of Children’s Day Festival celebrations (plenty of pictures are sure to come from that – of us and by us) and then we’ll be leaving the following Tuesday. 17 fun-packed days until we’re on a flight back home…

Thank you and until next time,

Alyssa

(Happy 100 posts!)

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Baoding

 

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Day 270: The Last of the Routine

Nimenhao!

The girls have been packed up and shipped back to the US to end their college adventures and we’re here wrapping up our big China adventure.

Tuesday afternoon we had the opportunity to observe a seventh grade Chinese-English class (definitely a unique spectacle) that led to a two hour long conversation with Li Laoshi about the differences between education systems and values in the US versus China. Despite our differences, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and was glad to have been able to have it.

Seventh grade girls giving a performance in class:
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Wednesday, we began solo-teaching again (classes went as well as they ever have), and other than that, not much has happened since the girls left, which is why I haven’t been as frequent with posting. We were pulled out of our own classes (much to our annoyance) to do more photographs for the school but the classes I did go to, were very happy to see me (and I them).

Selfies with fifth graders:
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Friday we went to a brand new restaurant in Baoding with Johnson and tried one of the more popular chicken dishes in China – Spring Chicken. It was tasty and we always have fun talking to Johnson (I swear he knows more about American pop culture than I ever have). We’re definitely going to miss him.

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And this weekend, I was able to get some footage of a Chinese woman in her natural habitat (this went on for about 20 minutes, as it always does):

Today marked the beginning of our second to last week of teaching in China and 21 days until we’re back in the States. This week I’m reviewing with my students in preparation for the exam I’ll give them next week and next week’s lesson with be half exam, half party time/saying goodbye. Farewells will be hard, especially considering how life-changing this year has been, but now that I’m counting down, I’m anxious to begin packing and on to our final adventure in Hong Kong/Macau.

Statue of Liberty (seventh grade creation):
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So with less than nine teaching days left (for me), it’s time to make sure we squeeze the most out of the rest of our time in Baoding, China and begin preparing for the Children’s Day Festival (in which we’re – surprise! – performing) and saying goodbye to life as we’ve known it for the past 270 days.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 263: Teaching in (Baoding) China

Nimen hao!

We’re 28 days from leaving and have between one and three classes left with each group of students depending on the grade. Teaching new material is effectively done and now (at least in my classes) we’ll be reviewing, taking my final exam, and saying goodbye. It seems that just as I was getting the hang of “this teaching thing” the WKU teachers got here and now, after they leave on Wednesday (how has their month here already passed?!), the semester and year are officially concluding. We’re in the home stretch.

As I’ve been observing Haley’s classes and advising her as best I can on the “different beast” that is teaching English to Chinese students, I’ve come up with a list of things I’ve learned about teaching (in this specific environment) this year:

-Your class may not count, but you do:
My classes have not been worth a grade or had any “official” impact on the academic careers of my students, which has made engaging disinterested students even more difficult, but as the students realize I’ll be leaving in less than three weeks and that I will not be their teacher next year, there is no doubt that I, personally, matter to (most of) them. Just as relationships with the students have been really rewarding to me, I think the students have relished the personal attention Duncan and I strive to give to them. We interact with the students very differently than their Chinese teachers do (most characteristically by emphasizing positive interactions – whether it be creating a positive, shame-free, and fun learning environment or rewarding correct answers and good behaviour) and making ourselves accessible and welcoming to casual interaction has clearly been important to the students. They’ll miss us as much as we’ll miss them.

-You have to adapt your vocabulary to words and phrases the students have likely encountered or been taught before:
You have to bring yourself, your lesson, and your teaching to a level that is understandable, accessible, and relevant to them. For example, our students were taught “water-closet” or “W.C.” instead of “bathroom” and before I taught them that the American equivalent is “bathroom” or “restroom”, I had to acknowledge that they were correct and that I understood them. I taught them “Earth friendly” rather than “environmentally friendly” because they had already learned the word “Earth”. I have simplified my spoken English in the classroom to make them more able to understand what I’m saying without relying on a translator. My goal with this was to get them understanding and using as much English as possible independently rather than relying on a translator or losing their interest in my class because I was just speaking at them incoherently.

-No matter how ridiculous it feels, talk slowly:
I’m a fast talker with my English-speaking peers so slowing down my speech enough that non-native English speakers could have a chance at understanding me took quite a bit of adjustment. It wasn’t until I really started trying to communicate on my own in Chinese that I realized just how big of a difference it makes in whether or not I can understand and continue to communicate with people. I really appreciate it when people are patient and considerate enough to slow down their speech so I can catch the individual words and phrases in Chinese and so I have made a deliberate effort to do the same with my students learning English. In turn, they’ve even slowed down their Chinese enough to teach me new words and phrases.

-Become a mime:
One of the hardest things to get used to about teaching, other than speaking at (what feels like) a glacially slow pace, is learning to be exaggeratedly expressive. Often to help explain the rules of a game or a concept, I have been very literally demonstrative. Whether it’s just pointing or miming an action with your entire body, expressing yourself with more than just words is very helpful to students. This also took me a while to adjust to, but once I did, my students began understanding me and getting more out of my classes almost immediately.

-Get used to embarrassing yourself:
This applies to pretty much every aspect of living in China, especially if your language ability can’t be categorized as fluent, but it is especially true when teaching kids. Talking slowly and literally acting out everything in your lesson sometimes turns you into a comedic variety show, of sorts, in your classroom, but it’s worth the embarrassment and self-consciousness since it often is beneficial to your students’ learning. One of my lessons was on health words and this meant that for every “cough”, “sneeze”, “help”, “sick”, and “sleep”, I was essentially acting out a charades game by myself. Whereas this benefitted the older kids by their learning the English equivalent to a visual thing rather than to the Chinese translated word, the younger kids joined in on the acting and they learned the new English words through total-body engagement in the lesson. Now, if I asked my students what I’m doing with my hand over my mouth, they know I’m acting out “mask”. It’s weird; it takes some creativity; but it seems to work and makes class more fun.

-There is a ton of variety in your classes:
In all of my classes, I can expect and have found an enormous amount of variety in age, ability, patience, learning style, hygiene, interest in school, background, interest in extracurricular activities, willingness to speak in front of the class, willingness to speak just to me, comprehension, and speed of learning amongst many, many other factors. This is especially true in my older classes in which I have eighth graders who can barely count to twenty in English while their desk partner is having full conversations with me in English and wishing me to “have good dreams” at night when I go to sleep. This makes creating a lesson even more difficult (than it already is considering how infrequently I see the students). While some kids may want only to learn about hobbies and computer games, others want to learn about American culture, others need to be tutored in basics such as colors and numbers, and others could genuinely care less about your class or ever speaking English for that matter. Do I cater lessons to the advanced and interested students or do I cover basics but leave the advanced students bored? This is not a situation unique to ESL teachers in China, but it has presented me with some challenges that I wish I had been better prepared for.

I have also learned a lot about what I would do differently were I to teach these classes again. For one, I would focus more on teaching frameworks rather than vocabulary, at least at first. For example, I wish I’d spent more time teaching phrases like “I like ____”, “I feel ___”, “I want____”. In the long run, I think this would have been very useful for the students and, though what I taught the students certainly was still beneficial, frameworks would have been more universally applicable. I also wish that I had taught phonics from the very beginning. One of my biggest criticisms of how Chinese students learn English, at least from my experience at this school, is that they memorize how to say a new word but since they don’t have a firm grasp on phonics, they are unable to sound out new words they see or how to hypothesize how to spell words they recognize orally but not visually. I wish I had taken the time every time I taught a new word to sound out and focus on the phonics. Maybe that would even eliminate the frustrating “-a” added to the end of every word(-a).

Another thing I’ve come to see in a new light is technology in the classroom. When we first arrived at this school, we were frustrated (I was a little panicked) about our classrooms. We were told that we would have multi-media classrooms but lo and behold, when we entered our classrooms for the first time, we found a chalkboard, fifty desks, and about 3 pieces of chalk. Since I can’t even remember the last time I had a class in which the teacher only used a chalkboard, I was dumbfounded on how to teach a class without technology. In the US, teachers and education majors are increasingly expected to use technology such as Smart boards, PowerPoint presentations, and YouTube videos in their classrooms. And before this experience teaching in China, I was fully on board with all of that and more in the classroom – in an increasingly globalized and technological world, of course technology should be utilized. Though I still agree with this, I’ve become aware of a different angle – that maybe we’re too dependent on technology. By writing on the board and making my own flashcards, I’ve effectively taught 25 classes a week without a single electronic aid and now that I look back on it, I’m not sure how a Smart board would have taught the students any more vocabulary than I did without it. I was talking with the other teachers the other day and they mentioned another interesting aspect I hadn’t thought about before – patience. With technology in the classroom, lessons are sped up, students can switch focus (and get distracted) quickly, and, teachers can lose the attention of students even faster. But in our classrooms here, where students are accustomed to waiting the few extra seconds it takes to write a sentence on the chalkboard rather than it almost instantaneously flashing on the screen, students are required to have a little more patience, a little less entertainment, and a little more focus for a longer period of time. Perhaps, in the midst of our ADHD “epidemic”, we should try teaching without instantaneous gratification and flashy Powerpoints, and instead teach our kids, in the classroom, how to listen, how to wait, and how to be behaved and patient while they wait for a few quiet seconds.

To end this post (much longer than I originally intended when I sat down to write it), here are pictures of some of my classes from last week:

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Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 257: Goodbye Beijing

Hey everyone,

We’re back from our May Day trip to Beijing and now in the final month of our contract.

Last Tuesday night we were able to have another (final) dinner with Johnson and Samantha and we had a really amazing time. We met up at QLH and took taxis to a Chinese tapas restaurant that was delicious and then we went to an “indie” coffee shop that smelled like Asheville but was decorated with Cultural Revolution era artifacts. It turned out that we went to the coffee shop on its one-year anniversary so on top of our orders of coffee, we all got a free glass of wine – definitely my kind of place!

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Wednesday, we headed out and began our grand adventure to Beijing. The girls were thrilled to have the opportunity to explore a part of China outside of Baoding and were as impressed with the high-speed rail as I continue to be. Once in Beijing, they got to experience the subway as we made our way to the hostel, hutongs (alleys), and, as always, tremendous amounts of walking.
The hostel was almost directly behind the Lama Temple, a really gorgeous part of Beijing, and as the girls went off to explore the temple itself, Duncan and I wandered through the hutongs and streets in that district.

Yoda in our hostel:
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Also while in Beijing, we visited the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square:

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We went to an acrobatics show:

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And on the way there, drove past Tiananmen:

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We did a ton of shopping (along with all these people):

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And when we almost got caught in a terrific thunderstorm, we got hand-carved stone stamps made by this guy:

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We even went to the Olympic Village:

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We had a really wonderful time in Beijing, and loved getting to share everything we’ve seen and done with our new friends.

Sunday, we said a final farewell to Beijing and left Beijingxi Railway Station, and made our final return to Baoding where we will be for the next 27 days.

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Yesterday, we had another good day of classes and Haley, Caitlin, and I all got our own Baoding Bilingual School uniforms:

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And I found these gems on the sixth grade floor hallway:

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Today, the school asked Duncan and I to oblige them by doing a photo-shoot for them to advertise us to future middle school students. Apparently, some teachers saw me dancing in the parking lot a couple of months ago, and now they want pictures of that too.

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Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 250: Teacher, I love you!

Nimenhao da jia! (Hey everyone!)

The happy days just keep on coming!

We taught through the weekend in preparation for May Day holiday and the classes were great. Saturday, we met up with Samantha and Johnson for the first time in two months and had a wonderful dinner out together while we caught up. Plus, the weather has been so gorgeous recently we haven’t had to wear masks the past couple of weeks. The sun is shining, the wind feels amazing, the birds are chirping delightfully, and the trees are releasing these giant white puff-balls that are coating the ground in a layer of white and filling the air with what we’ve come to call “Springtime Snow”.

Since Haley has been leading my classes recently, I’ve been sitting in the back observing and reflecting. When it’s all said and done, I really couldn’t be happier about this year in China, especially in regards to teaching. The winter was harsh and there have been many ups and downs, but what I take away from this experience, now that it’s almost over, is overwhelmingly positive and I’m grateful for all of it.

Today was the first time I sat in on my seventh grade classes and I have to say it was a blast to be a half-way participant in the class and to be amidst the students rather than up at the front teaching, for once. Students that typically aren’t very engaged with English were trying to communicate with me either by talking or by passing me notes with questions (which was so much fun for the students to have Alyssa Laoshi participating in note passing – but it was more beneficial for them than they realize since it was all in English) and some even got a rare dose of positive attention from their classmates when they answered Haley’s questions right (after I secretly whispered the correct answer to them – again, it was more beneficial than they realized because even though I was helping them, they were getting to experience what being the smart kid in the class is like and be encouraged further because of it, which, for these particular students, never happens even in their Chinese classes). I talked about earrings and piercings with a group of girls in one class and I spent another class discussing the fact that Haley is not my teacher from America even though she is a teacher at this school and that she is my friend, even though she has “scary eyes” (for some reason, many of my students think her eyes are scary – I think it’s because they’re not used to seeing eye make-up on their teachers and because her eyes are a deep blue). I even got into a debate with my students about whether or not my eyes are blue or grey (apparently, I don’t know what color my eyes are).
My last class before lunch though (a class in which I have a personal relationship with almost every student), was the really heartwarming one. After I spent the majority of the class sitting in the back so as not to be a distraction and to help with classroom management, I moved into an empty desk towards the front of the room and spent a while talking to the students around me. This group of kids, in particular, has always had some of the best English in the school, but today they impressed me even more than they usually do in our mini-conversations.

Students: Will you be our teacher again?
Me: Yes.
Students: Will you teach with the new teacher? (Meaning, both of us up at the board at the same time.)
Me: Maybe.
Students: We don’t love the new teacher as much as we love you.
Me: Why not?
A boy named Scot (leans real close to my face looking very serious): Teacher, I love you.
Me (laughing): Well, thank you. I love you all too.
Students: When do you go home?
Me: I got home to America in June.
Students: When will you return to China?
Me: I don’t know.

[This is when the panic began setting in…]

Students: Will you teach us in September?
Me: No.
Students: Will you teach us in October?
Me: No.
Students: Will you teach us next year?
Me: No. I’m going to America.
Students: WHY!? No, teacher!
Me: My family is in the US.
Students: Do you want to see your family?
Me: Yes, I do.
Students: How will you go to America? (This is a surprisingly common question and they do, indeed, mean transportation.)
Me: By airplane
Students: Do you like us?
Me: Yes, of course.
Students: Will you come back to China after you go to America?
Me: Some day.
Students: When?
Me: I don’t know.
Students: Will you come back to the Bilingual School to see us and teach us?
Me: Maybe.
Students: Teacher! I’ll miss you!
Me: I will miss you too!
Students: Will you remember us?
Me: Of course I will.
Students: Teacher I LOVE YOU! Teacher, I will be sad!

They seemed not to understand when I clarified for them that I will teach them again before I leave, because as I walked out of the room the kids kept saying “good bye, teacher!” and one girl gave me a card attempting to say, have a good trip:

Recent gifts from students:
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A postcard that wishes me a happy flight (in broken English), anime me, and three post cards – one of which is meant to say “forever” friend not “never” friend. 😛

When I reflect on the past year of teaching, I can see just how much confidence I have gained in the classroom compared to the first few weeks of classes. I can see things that I should have done different as part of my classroom routine, and I feel like I’m beginning to grasp the best way to handle these students kindly but without letting them walk all over me. But I think my greatest accomplishment this year as a teacher has been the relationships I’ve developed with my students. I’m going to be very sad to leave them and say goodbye, especially when the reality is that I will probably never see nor hear from these kids again. But I was very excited to share with some students today that I want to keep in touch with them through QQ and email and that it will be possible even when I’m in the US.

Feeling so confident about teaching and proud of our time here, especially at the school, has even tempted part of me to want to stay here for another sixth months just to take advantage of the confidence and experience I’ve gained along with making practical use of the reflecting I’ve been able to do about what works, what doesn’t work, and what I should have done more of in the classrooms. My pride for my Chinese language ability, our traveling, and our other success during this China-life adventure, makes extending our time here even more tempting with the possibilities of even more growth.
But, in truth, we will be back in the States in 41 days and I am even more excited about that! It will be great to see friends and family and to relive the entire year as we share our pictures and stories.

Look at these goofballs:
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Tonight we are having our last dinner with Samantha and Johnson (probably) before we go back to the States and tomorrow the four of us (Duncan, Haley, Caitlin, and I) are going to Beijing for the week. Duncan and I are really looking forward to playing the role of tour guides in this city we’ve come to know pretty well (who would have ever thought I would ever be able to say Beijing was once “my old stomping grounds”?) and to have some time out of Baoding. We’ve been really happy with everything recently, but it will be nice to go on a trip anyway. This is likely going to be our last touring trip in China before we head out of Baoding permanently and on to Hong Kong, Macau, and then home.

Look for another post in the next few days (probably including the Forbidden City and the other big sites of Beijing) as we replicate our first big China touring trip. The first time we over National Day holiday with our old American friends and now, as our last time, it will be over May Day holiday with our new American friends. I can’t wait!

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Baoding

 

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